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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.


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#646: More Data Won't Make Your Presentations More Compelling

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 5, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2011
For all the analysis consultants do for our clients, it seems that no matter how much analytic findings we present, some clients either want more data or "have to think about it." We're highly regarded in the analysis department and it isn't all clients, so we have to consider it is the nature of the presentation itself.

Remember, presentations are not what the word implies. This is really not about just "presenting" information in an attempt to inform the audience. Our work for clients does include analysis and sharing the findings and recommendations. However, it is really about creating a compelling case for clients to take some kind of action. We want them to do something because they feel they must. not overwhelm them with numbers in the hope that logic will prevail.

A century ago, business advertising was primarily aimed at convincing consumers (that includes other businesspeople) that the features of the product were superior. After Edward Bernays and others discovered that people were compelled by emotion, advertising, public relations and business persuasion changed. Advertising uses storyboards to create that emotion and put you in the mood to buy. Because we are now so familiar with this way of interaction, your clients implicitly want to be told, or sold, on a story of your findings.

Corporate storytelling is now a profession. Look at executive speeches over the past decade and you will see that the best ones are ones that weave a story through the facts. Approach your presentations with storytelling in mind, supported by the facts as needed. As the saying goes, "you can't displace by logic that which was arrived at by emotion." If you don't know the emotional state you wish to displace in your clients, then any presentation will be a hard sell.

Tip: A resource I highly recommend is Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Author Nancy Duarte provides a professional guide to understanding and delivering great presentations that resonate with audiences and compel an emotional reaction.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  customer understanding  innovation  presentations  recommendations  trends 

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#644: What Advice Do Yo Have?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2011
These Daily Tips have really helped me in my business, but I have a few of my own that I'd like to share. Can I submit them for publication?

Glad you asked. IMC USA's mission is to promote excellence and ethics in management consulting through certification, education and professional resources. That said, we welcome your best ideas.

The top five Tip subjects subscribers value most.are:
  • Consulting Techniques
  • Client Relations
  • Business Development
  • Bus./Mgmt/Consulting Trends
  • Marketing and Selling
Send tips to and we will review and publish those that are appropriate and do not duplicate recent or upcoming tips. Although we expect to publish most tips as submitted, IMC USA reserves the right to edit tips for size or clarity. Please limit tips to 250 words or less and provide a "lead" that states the issue or context of the tip (see recent tips for examples). Also include your full name, company, and email address (yes, we will attribute the tips to you). We may or may not publish your tips and may schedule them for some time in the future, but we will attribute tips to authors. If tips require substantial edits we will contact you for confirmation. Thanks for your support and contributions to making us all more effective advisors.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  intellectual property  recommendations 

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#638: It's What You Know That Just Ain't So

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011
I like the comment attributed to Will Rogers about "It's not what you don't know that's the problem, it's what you know that just ain't so." Even though we are human, getting trapped in such assumptions is particularly dangerous for consultants. How can we avoid making these mistakes?

It may be the consultants are prone to being misled because of the nature of their work. We are expected to take incomplete and often confusing information and make sense of it, then use that information to chart a course for our clients. We often know of similar circumstances but, unless we have been working with a particular client for a while, are often new to the organization.

The nature of our work compels us to "jump to conclusions," even though we usually consider that a good thing. Why do we jump to the "wrong" conclusions, even after a good analysis? You are referring to a number of well documented biases that affect us in decision making. The most potent is confirmation bias, where a piece of information we have seems to comfortably fit into the "model" we have constructed. This serves to strengthen our conviction that we are on the right solution path (and our assumption that we are indeed smart consultants).

A number of other biases, recency bias (overweighting the last piece of information we received), anchoring (overweighting initial information), and vividness bias (overweighting the most stimulating information) can all lead to assuming we are right when we could be really wrong. The antidote to this is to constantly challenge your working model of how you see a client's situation and to become a student of over confidence.

Tip: lists a number of rumors that many people "know" to be true that just aren't. These persist because they are interesting, amusing or curious - and are either hard to verify or just not worth the effort. Find some of these rumors or urban legends (there are websites with plenty of these as well) you might believe and consider why you believe them. This might refresh your inner skeptic and help you avoid jumping to the wrong conclusion in your next engagement.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  analysis  assumptions  consulting process  diagnosis  interpretation  learning  market research  professional development 

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#637: Is Your Advice (or Timing) Overwhelming Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I have a client who asks a lot of great questions and wants us to diagnose and recommend in a lot of areas. But, when it comes time to present findings and recommendations, he doesn’t seem to want all we have come up with. Should we trim back our analysis or just find another way to give him all the information he originally asked for?

It is unclear that this is just a question of how much analysis to conduct. Beyond establishing mutual expectations about the scope of engagement, depth of your analysis, and format of the briefing and likely decision making, there is an issue of how much complexity you should impose on your client.

It is the nature of consulting that you will dig deeper into an issue and likely come up with content that is more than the client needs or wants. Don't confuse your roles as researcher and advisor. If you become enamored with all you have learned and try to present this to your client, regardless of how organized your data and clever your presentation, you run a real risk of hampering your client's ability to make sense of, and take effective action from, your work. Your goal is about client decision making, not your analysis.

Tip: Given the volume and complexity of information your client has to process daily (beyond what you are feeding him), your effectiveness starts with understanding how complex a decision space your client wants or needs. A recent New York Times Magazine article Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? makes an excellent case for moderating our own, as well as that of our clients', information for decision making. Another fascinating part of this article is about how decision making is affected by when a decision is to be made. This has important implications for when you schedule your briefings or when you expect your client to make a particularly complex or emotional decision. If you want to make sure your clients get the best you have to offer, this article is worth the time to find out how much and when to present the most effective information.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  communication  decision making  information management 

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#635: How To Answer a Client Who Says "Tell Me What To Do."

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 19, 2011
Updated: Friday, August 19, 2011
I've been burned a few times over my career by making recommendations before my analysis was complete. More experience has meant I won't be pressured into making a prescription before my diagnosis is in. But what do you do with an insistent client who reminds you that she is paying the bills and wants you to tell her what to do when you are not ready to do so?

Beyond the expertise we bring to an engagement, a consultant's major contribution to a client is our independence and objectivity. Being pressured to give an opinion before you are comfortable serves neither party well. Remember that the consultant's role is to ask the right questions, research and reveal issues, bring alternatives to a client and lay the groundwork for the client to make the decision. Consulting standards are clear that the responsibility for making the final decision rests with the client.

That said, there is an effective approach to help a client who trusts your judgment and wants you to make their decision (although it's expressed as "What do you recommend?"). When your client asks you to tell them what to do, recognize it as a request to help them organize their thinking. They are likely overwhelmend by the options (part of why you were retained) and want to get on with implementing a solution. Your orientation now shifts from an organizational to a personal level.

This is where your coaching, facilitation and leadership skills combine to draw them through a series of scenarios and stories. By doing so you help them isolate important parts of the issue, focus on one aspect at a time of the problem or opportunity and give them a frame of reference through which to see a series of choices, and eventaully a set o fsolutions. Each of your examples of how company X or agency Y addressed (not necessarily solved) their issues narrows your client's field of vision. Of course, the stories you select will be guided by your work with this client to date. In the end, you will bring them along to your current state of knowledge and understanding of the issues. Once you are in sync, the clilent may be able to see a soltion or recognize that your work is incomplete. At a minimum, the deisre to "just decide" is repressed.

Tip: This does not abrogate your responsibility to provide logical, defensible advice. It also should elevate the need to have a lot of stories about how differnt companies face challenges. These are best from your own client experience but can be from the literature. Russ Ackoff's descriptions of the thinking proceses he went rhrough are an excellent source. A good one is Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client relations  communication  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  recommendations 

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